- Akshita Saravanan 12A

If I had an opportunity to witness an event in history, I would love to have witnessed the Tanjore Big temple aka the Brhadeewara Temple being built. It is a magnificent UNESCO world heritage monument built around 1010AD by the famous king Raja Raja Chola. It is a place I have been familiar with for more than a decade and this year around mid of January I had a lucky opportunity to visit this marvelous monument. A day or more is not enough to get enough of this spellbinding architecture. Perhaps its more than just another religious stop. Let me elucidate why…

  1. The temple has been constructed using interlocking block with absence of any sort of binding materials yet it has survived centuries and a lot of natural calamities like earthquakes. How? It is still unknown.
  2. Speaking of its construction, the whole temple is built using Granite. Evidence shows that Granite was not found anywhere around that area possibly there was no Granite cutting quarry or even sources to get it around that region. Imagine how they would have managed to get it- that to in those days!
  3. The main tower which is 66 m tall has an 80-ton single capstone on top. In those days how did they manage to keep this heavy an object on top of a hollow tower! No one knows!
  4. What was the purpose of its construction? A temple for the people or a watch tower? Myths say the temple has a lot of secret underground passages and storage rooms. To satisfy what goal?
  5. Granite carvings are hard, very hard. Yet, the temple probably has the world’s most detailed carvings on its Stones and lovely Tanjore paintings in some of its walls. Its no surprise it took approximately 5-15 years to finish this Masterpiece, but how did they make this possible in those days? What are those ancient scripts exactly Supposed to convey? In fact, the Englishmen even tried to learn and replicate these wonderful carvings and failed miserably.
  6. Here is the most fascinating mystery of all, the main tower doesn’t at all cast a shadow at noon! No matter which Season you visit. What is the maths and science behind it?   No other known structure has this peculiar feature. And the shadow of the main tower does fall on earth, but only inside temple complex.

The Dravidian-style Temple is indeed daunting and to get your bearings right it has 3 main tower or gateways. Each with its own specialty, standing high in the heart of the city with its distinct carvings. Let’s not forget the monolithic Nandi. It is massive! It’s beautiful! It’s very exclusive. It’s the epitome of excellent craftmanship. Is it just a beautiful structure or a defence post? It is still a mystery. Proceeding the huge Nandi One would enter the main shrine under the beautiful and mysterious vimana/ main tower. The temple has other remarkable shrines and a very prominent boundary wall as well.

One can undoubtedly say that this heritage site is ‘perfect’ because its angle of Lean is zero degrees. How accurate is that? That too in a 1000-year-old structure. It’s something that’s very interesting as well. It is a fact that about 130,000 tons of granite was used for construction and was carved without any special equipment. Human talent at those times clearly was at its best.

The temple was built entirely by volunteers, and not with Slaves or Machines. History says that animals like elephants were used at the time of construction for moving granite etc.

Thanjavur Brhadeewara temple is an engineering marvel additional to its architectural beauty. Every bit of the temples make and care is said to be mentioned in the ancient scripts one can see all over the walls but nowhere has the secret of its engineering been mentioned. This mystery has remained with the Chola kings and now has been lost in time.

To have an opportunity to witness this magnificent monument being created by the best of architects and Craftsmen of the era would have been extremely wonderful. To understand a Structure, we should understand its purpose. Questions behind its unique construction, the inspiration behind it, and where the secret tunnels/passages lead to etc will be answered. Many myths will be broken and a lot of realization about its carvings and inscriptions will no longer be a secret. The merit of a monument like this one, lies in its ability to put the seeker in a contemplative mood.

[P.S. all these pictures have been clicked by me ]